Attributions for perceived discriminatory events as predictors of social anxiety in gay men
Burns, Michelle Nicole
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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between gay men’s attributions for discriminatory events and their social anxiety symptoms within a minority stress framework. A sample of 309 men identifying as gay or bisexual completed an online survey including measures of social anxiety, perceived frequency of discriminatory events, and attributions for hypothetical discriminatory events. The participants also completed measures of constructs in the minority stress model describing the effect of discrimination on mental health outcomes in gay men (Meyer, 1995; 2003). These measures included internalized homonegativity, gay identity, social support, and outness. Frequency of perceived discrimination was associated with increased social anxiety. Consistent support for the minority stress model was also obtained; internalized homonegativity and less advanced gay identity were predictive of increased social anxiety, while advanced gay identity, social support, and outness were predictive of reduced social anxiety. Further, a composite scale formed by importance, stability, and globality attributions for discriminatory events was predictive of increased social anxiety, as was a composite scale comprised of internal and self-blaming attributions for discrimination. These attribution scales were also predictive of internalized homonegativity and advanced gay identity. External, other blaming attributions for discrimination moderated both the effect of perceived frequency of discrimination on social anxiety and the effect of such discrimination on satisfaction with social support. Satisfaction with social support also emerged as a partial mediator of the relationship between frequency of perceived discrimination and social anxiety, while advanced gay identity moderated the effect of such discrimination on social anxiety. Results indicate that attributions can not only add to the explanatory power of the minority stress model, but also help to understand the variables within this model. It is also concluded that the effects of discrimination on gay men cannot be adequately understood in isolation, as some gay men are at increased risk for adverse effects of discrimination. Future studies should provide clarification of temporal order and generalization of these results to the general gay male population, as well as translation of the model to other minority populations and the general population of socially anxious individuals.